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Sharp Clips Dismantle Cavs 128-103 Behind Kawhi’s 43

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The Clippers, looking sharp and awake for the first time in weeks, dominated the Cavs at home, orchestrated by a brilliant Kawhi Leonard performance.

Cleveland Cavaliers v LA Clippers Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Summary

This game felt different from recent contests from the very beginning. The Clippers were energized and active to start the game, swinging the ball offensively and scrambling on defense. The actual execution left something to be desired, especially on defense, but the effort and talent appeared front and center. In the second quarter, the Clippers were able to open up a sizable lead behind some sizzling scoring from Kawhi Leonard and Lou Williams, leveraging their made buckets to take the Cavs out of transition. Kawhi dominated the 3rd quarter, punching in bucket after bucket in ruthless fashion, and the Cavs just couldn’t keep up. The Clippers opened up a 35+ point lead, and the rest was garbage time.

Notes

Effort, effort, effort: The Clippers won this one easily, and while a lot of that had to do with the woeful Cavs, the Clippers were the impetus behind the victory. Rather than going through the motions, the Clippers operated with purpose, making smart reads and passes on offense while rotating quickly on defense. The Cavs were unable to get much of anything going until garbage time, and the Clippers used those stops to push out in transition and get easy buckets. Even if the Clippers aren’t a contender without Paul George, if they can play with this effort and level of activity, they’ll play fun, competitive basketball on a nightly basis.

Kawhi Dictates: Remember all the concerns about Kawhi Leonard early in the season? Yeah, me neither. Kawhi is looking healthier than ever these days, with noticeably improved elevation on both his dunks and his jump shot. He’s taking over games almost at will, and has maintained his playmaking over the course of the season. The turnovers are an issue, but Kawhi is the complete package, and he can just do so many things on the basketball court. The Clippers haven’t always been fun to watch this year, but Kawhi has been a joy.

Lou Back: Speaking of fun, Lou Williams is on one of his patented hot streaks, and there are few players more fun to watch play the game of basketball than a streaking Lou Williams. After a down December, Lou is averaging over 24 points per game in January while shooting 53.8% from the field and 50% from three. He’s still getting to his spots, still drawing free throws, and still making ridiculous shots. Lou might not be ageless, but he’s the closest thing to it, and it’s impossible to overestimate his value to the Clippers.

Getting Landry Going: One of the Clippers’ biggest issue of late has been the play of Landry Shamet. He’d hit only 5 of his past 28 threes entering last night’s game, and was scuffling defensively. Yesterday, however, he looked just like rookie Shamet, launching 11 threes and hitting 4 of them. His defense also picked up, a good sign for a player like Landry who needs to offer something when his shot isn’t falling. When Landry is taking and making a lot of threes, the Clippers are a more dangerous, fluid, and versatile offensive team. Hopefully this game sparks a second-half surge from Sham.